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Sunday, May 16. 2010
MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) brings us an exceptional debate in Kuwait over whether a performance in Kuwait of the internationally enjoyed song Hava Nagilah, performed by all races and nationalities, should be forbidden as legitimizing Israel.
What makes the debate exceptional is that, for a change, more than one side is heard in an Arab country. Highlights of the debate are below the fold. Worth reading. (Or, be doomed to endlessly dance to the Macarena.)
Meanwhile, here’s Harry Belafonte sharing the song’s joy with an audience in
Translation of the objectionable lyrics:
Awake, awake brothers!
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I would've skipped using the Belafonte clip as an accompaniment to this post:
I think most Americans would be quite shocked at how much airtime the pan-Arab media (I'm thinking particularly of the Gulf media) give to views that are just incredibly controversial to the convential wisdom of the "Arab street". We've got a TV in our office on Arab satellite TV, usually tuned to Jazeerah or al-Arabiyah, and it's still remarkable to me to see them interviewing, for example, an Arab-Israeli officer as spokesman for the IDF (how many Jewish colonels do you find in Arab militaries? I ask myself, and their viewers must as well). I've seen them interview academics who argue vigorously that the Arab world will never succeed at anything until they give up their victim complex vis-a-vis Israel. Jazeerah and Arabiyah studiously use neutral language in their reporting, such as "West Bank and Gaza" instead of "the occupied territories" and "victims" rather than "martyrs". This is pretty radical by the standards of Arab media, which was historically dominated by mouthpieces of the Arab Nationalists with the Islamists providing the only "alternative" media perspective.
To be fair, little of the Arab media is truly independent (you certainly won't find any cutting criticism of the Gulf States' tribal monarchies on Jazeerah or Arabiyah), and the extremists still have their own little media caliphates, but there's no monopolies anymore. Arguments that cut right to the heart of modern Arab identity, questions that used to be asked behind closed doors if at all, are suddenly thrust into the conversation. It's pretty cool to see, frankly. It's one of the things that justifies my (very occasional) bouts of hopefulness about the Mideast.
Many Muslim leaders find music itself to be objectionable. Also, Islam is very little into rejoicing about daily life. The psalmist's "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it," is a tough concept for many Muslims and their leaders.
The same leaders usually find Judaism objectionable, so Jewish music is a double-whammy. Have it sung by Miss Israel in a bikini and watch the fun!